CHS advisors offering even more support during pandemic

by Isabell Phillips
CHS contributor

The ‘living room’ of CHS — this is what the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) has fondly been nicknamed by those in the College of Health Sciences.

OSA offers support services to both prospective and current students from applying for admission to graduation. OSA has always been a welcoming place, a place filled with smiling faces and popcorn machines. But it looked completely different when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“We were eager to get back to connecting with people as soon as possible,” said Casey Shadix, PhD, Interim Director for OSA.

The main change Shadix noticed in the way he communicated with students during the pandemic was the emphasis he put on simply casually talking to them about how they were doing. Before the pandemic, appointments with students were centered around their academics and experiences in CHS, but these conversations began to turn into Shadix asking students how they were coping with all the pressures of the pandemic. He made sure to check in on their mental health and use the time he spoke to them to be a sense of support.

“I am here to support people,” he said. “I am not here to bash you or be your parent; I am just here to help.”

At a time when human connection was nearly nonexistent, all of the advisors made it a top priority to really be available for students in a way that was not as necessary before the pandemic.

Rebecca Serrano, a Senior Academic Advisor in OSA, realized that because students could not physically be in the same location as her, they might start to think that she was not available. Serrano got ahead of this problem by making it a priority to respond to emails in a timely manner.

Amy Karr, an Academic Advisor in OSA, also made sure to make herself as available as possible to students.

“Keeping in touch, whether it’s through email or Zoom, has been the most important key to maintaining our relationships with students during the pandemic,” Karr said.

In addition to email and Zoom, Karr did something unique in order to better connect with students. She actually texted them as a way to make them feel connected and not forgotten about. She knew that students are rarely without their cell phones, so she felt that could be a more effective way to contact them.

Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought to OSA, Shadix and Heather Hardesty, another Academic Advisor, both brought up the fact that Zoom has been somewhat of a blessing in disguise.

Meeting with students through Zoom allowed the advisors to get a more intimate glimpse into the lives of students, which deepened the connections that the students and advisors have with each other.

“Because of Zoom I was able to meet parents and family members virtually, which I probably would have never done without it,” Shadix said. “I also got a sense of each students’ individual style through Zoom, which helped me to separate the students from each other and connect with them in a way that I wasn’t doing before the pandemic.”

Heather Hardesty had a similar experience.

“Connecting through Zoom from our homes provides an intimacy we don’t normally get in the office,” she said. “I’ve gotten to (virtually) meet pets, babies and parents which I don’t often get in the office. Being able to see each other in our home environments is such a cool way to connect and bond over our shared experiences.”

Kelsey Gatton, a student in CHS and a student worker for OSA, has a unique perspective on both the support that OSA provides and all that goes on behind the scenes to make OSA successful. From a student-worker perspective, Kelsey has seen firsthand the time and energy that OSA is putting in to make sure all students are as successful as they can be.

“In the CHS Canvas shells we have included resources on COVID-19, academics, graduation, experiential opportunities, food security, mental health and so much more,” Gatton said. “Amy Karr has really led the way on this and made sure that us student workers don’t feel overwhelmed at any point.”

Gatton has also felt the effects of the advisors through her relationship with Casey Shadix.

“Casey Shadix is my advisor and I can’t give him enough praise,” she said. “Casey is constantly reaching out through email and Canvas. Navigating grad school applications and commitments are not easy during a pandemic. Casey was always available to field any questions I had, write recommendations, and connect me to people to speak with. He truly cares about the success of his students and the college.”

Bron Bourque, a freshman student in CHS, spent last semester as a remote student, which came with a unique set of challenges. Like Gatton, Bourque’s advisor is Casey Shadix as well.

“Over the summer Casey helped me make two schedules — one for online remote learning and one for in-person to help accommodate my needs,” Bourque said. “When I suggest the HHS major pathway, I always tell people to contact Casey because he always gets back to students immediately and gives the best advice. I know that Casey will always have my best interest at heart and tell me exactly what I need to be doing.”

So even during a pandemic, students in CHS have felt supported by their advisors in OSA, and they believe they can count on them to help navigate this difficult time in their college careers.

It is a time when human connection is more necessary than ever, and the OSA office has stayed true to its mission.


Below is a list of resources that may be helpful for students to utilize:

•    List of university resources for academic support, wellness (mental and physical) technology support, and more:

•    CHS offers programs for mindfulness and yoga relaxation, as well as opportunities to connect with the college community via the CHS MindBodyConnect series, and more info for that is at


One Year Later

It’s been a year since COVID-19 first began to change our lives, so here in the College of Health Sciences, we are taking time to celebrate our health and well-being, while also to honor those we’ve lost along the way. 

We are publishing a series of stories that will celebrate our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Never have we been challenged in the ways we were over the past year. We are determined that we will not forget. And we will persevere.